#4 – Louisville
Coming off of a very close call in the second round against UC-Irvine, the Cardinals came away from that game with some real positives to build on going into their Round of 32 matchup against the Northern Iowa Panthers. They won that game without playing their best, but Quentin Snider and Wayne Blackshear showed that they can come through when needed and help carry the load. Against the Panthers, though, it was Terry Rozier, the Cardinals’ leading scorer, who took back over and controlled the game. He had a game-high 25 points to go along with his five rebounds and seven assists. The Cardinals got very little production from their bench, relying heavily on their starters to set up a date against the N.C. State Wolfpack in the Sweet 16. This has all the makings of a physical, grind-it-out contest that comes down to the wire. If that ends up being the case, the Cardinals will have to take great care of the ball, as they did against the Panthers with just seven assists, and also make sure to convert at the free throw line. They were 17-21 at the charity stripe in the Round of 32, an 81 percent clip. Avoiding foul trouble will also be very vital, as Coach Rick Pitino is clearly not comfortable going deep into his bench right now.
– Yannis Koutroupis
#8 – NC State
Hailing from the Atlantic Coast Conference, North Carolina State played one of the toughest schedules in the country this year. They had 17 regular season matchups against top 70 RPI teams, so this squad certainly counts as battle tested and it showed in the first weekend of the tournament. Something had to give on Saturday after Thursday’s upsets were followed up with a chalk Friday. N.C. State revived the madness by defeating their first number one seeded team since 1983. Defensively, the Wolfpack continued to show their worth as they block shots (5+ per game) and rebound well on both ends of the floor. The Wolfpack defense held vaunted sharp shooting Villanova to 31 percent from the field. All-ACC player Trevor Lacey (15 PPG) put in a game-high 17, leading the upset after struggling from the field in a 4-15 day against LSU. He is flanked by Anthony “Cat” Barber (30 points in two games). After reaching the Sweet Sixteen via the 8/9 position, head coach Mark Gottfried remarked that his team had faced plenty of strong teams during conference play: “We respect Villanova, but we’ve seen good teams.” The underdog Wolfpack will draw another good team in Louisville.
– Dan Barto
Yannis Koutroupis: Louisville wins
Cody Toppert: Louisville wins
Dan Barto: NC State wins
Dan Barto has been with the IMG Academy basketball program since 2003. Prior to becoming the Head Skills Trainer, Barto was the IMG Academy basketball program’s Developmental Head Coach. Dan has trained over 100 current or former NBA players and coached over 40 Division I players. You can follow IMG on Twitter @IMGAcademy or on Facebook here.
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